Vauxhall Gardens – A Georgian Elysium

Today we are lucky enough to have a guest post by author Grace Elliot! Vauxhall Gardens has to be one of the most splendid destinations of the Georgian/Regency era and one we all wish we could go to. Let’s allow Grace to take us on a journey back in time . . .

Vauxhall Gardens

Vauxhall Gardens – that marvel of Georgian design and creativity, a place to enjoy art, dancing, music and theatre, where the Georgian man or woman could forget the drudgery of daily routine and pretend themselves in an earthly paradise. Such was Vauxhall’s attraction that the gardens were linked to two of the 18th centuries creative geniuses- the artist William Hogarth and composer George Frederick Handel.

The force behind the creation of Vauxhall Gardens was Jonathan Tyers, who started out as a simple tradesman from Bermondsey in London. Tyers realised that the ordinary people who lived and worked in the crowded, dirty, smelly city of London, would pay to escape that environment, if even for an evening, in order to visit an ‘Elysium’ or paradise on earth.

It was through Tyers foresight and idealism that the woods around a former tavern were transformed into a veritable cornucopia of verdant delight. [On a different note, it seems likely Tyers suffered from bipolar disorder. Accounts suggest he oscillated between a state of euphoric exhilaration when he drove forward his designs, and deep melancholy when he withdrew from the world, including his family.]

“That delicious sweetness of the place; the enchanting charms of music, and the satisfaction which appears in every one’s countenance, carried my soul almost to heaven.” Henry Fielding’s ‘Amelia’ (1752)

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Part of the genius of Tyers design was that he made the gardens appeal to the senses. Take as an example, sound. The average visitor to Vauxhall lived in a city of constant noise;  clattering hooves, grinding cart wheels, shouting street vendors, coal tipped into cellars – day and night there was noise and bustle. But at Vauxhall there was peace sufficient to hear the birds, specifically nightingales, singing.

Added to that there were pleasant sounds; an orchestra played in the middle of a grove.  Such was Vauxhall’s association with music that Handel composed new pieces to debut there. Later in the day, strolling singers serenaded the ladies – although after dark the songs became more daring and bawdy! In my latest release, Verity’s Lie, the heroine of the title has been told by her father that Vauxhall is a place of debauchery and best avoided. However, the hero, Lord Ryevale, is keen that Verity’s forms her own opinion:

They [Verity and Ryevale] moved on, subconsciously drawn to the sound of music.  Verity tried not to stare at the passers-by but it was difficult.  The gowns were so daring: transparent muslins and tissue-thin silks.  But Verity found she was no longer shocked, in fact, to see strangers laughing and smiling lifted her spirits.  Is this what her father sought to protect her from?  Did she have the same weakness for pleasure that her mother did? Suddenly, Verity needed to know.  She didn’t want to be protected, but to face the truth.  If Ryevale was her test, then so be it.

            Deep in thought, Verity drifted, letting Ryevale steer her along avenues, passing groves and grottos.  He seemed content to wander, assuming her lost in the wonders of the gardens.  The orchestra grew louder.  The chirp of violas and violins comfortingly familiar, and Verity rallied.  Surely there was a middle path where one could enjoy oneself but not be a slave to lust?  She lifted her chin, proud to be strolling on the arm of a handsome man and, for the first time, feeling the joy of being alive seeped into her consciousness.  Was this so very wrong?

            “This is the bandstand.”

            For the umpteenth time that evening, Verity caught her breath.  The bandstand put Verity in mind of a giant’s crown, rising out of a fairy tale grotto.  A tall, round building topped with spires where red, yellow and blue lanterns hung from the balconies, glittering like jewels.  The musicians played on the first floor, jolly in cockaded hats and red jackets, whilst below people danced amidst trees ringed by lamps.

            The swish of skirts and the thud of boots made Verity pause.

            “Would you like to dance?” Ryevale asked.

            She considered being held against his hard body, and suddenly the sounds of the gardens melted away, making her conscious only of her own breathing.  Dangerous.  Ryevale was far too dangerous to dance with.  Mustering a prim smile, she shook her head.  “No, thank you.”

            He hesitated, as if wanting to press her but changing his mind.  “Then, come.  I have something to show you.”

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Verity’s Lie

Charles Huntley, Lord Ryevale, infamous rogue…and government agent.

In unsettled times, with England at war with France, Ryevale is assigned to covertly protect a politician’s daughter, Miss Verity Verrinder. To keep Verity under his watchful eye, Ryevale plots a campaign of seduction that no woman can resist– except it seems, Miss Verrinder. In order to gain her trust Ryevale enters Verity’s world of charity meetings and bookshops…where the unexpected happens and he falls in love with his charge.

When Lord Ryevale turns his bone-melting charms on her, Verity questions his lordship’s motivation. But with her controlling father abroad, Verity wishes to explore London and reluctantly accepts Ryevale’s companionship. As the compelling attraction between them strengthens, Verity is shattered to learn her instincts are correct after all – and Ryevale is not what he seems. So if Lord Ryevale can lie, so can she… with disastrous consequences.

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About Grace

Grace Elliot leads a double life as a veterinarian by day and author of historical romance by night. Grace lives near London and is passionate about history, romance and cats! She is housekeeping staff to five cats, two sons, one husband and a bearded dragon (not necessarily listed in order of importance). “Verity’s Lie” is Grace’s fourth novel.

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2 Comments on Vauxhall Gardens – A Georgian Elysium

  1. Grace Elliot
    16/07/2013 at 9:34 pm (9 months ago)

    Thank you for hosting me, Laura on your elegant blog.
    kind regards,
    Grace x

    Reply

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